Category Archives: American

Christina vs. Food: A few things I ate in Chicago

The Chicago Skyline

The Chicago Skyline

OK, so there’s not much that’s worse than when a blogger apologises for not having posted for a few weeks due to the constraints of their ‘busy rock-and-roll-life’ (after all, who isn’t ridiculously busy nowadays?) But, as you may have guessed from the radio silence around here recently, things have been…well…a little hectic. A week of ridiculous deadlines was swiftly followed by a business trip to the USA, which saw me travelling between Chicago, Las Vegas and L.A. in the space of eight days. All great fun if you enjoy surviving on a diet of adrenalin, caffeine and french fries, and you ignore the jet lag, sleep deprivation and the incident where I called my Mum from Las Vegas and cried “I’M IN A PYRAMID, I HAVEN’T SLEPT PROPERLY IN FIVE DAYS AND EVERYTHING IS GOING WRONG” down the phone.

Las Vegas wowed me by charging $52.00 for three drinks in the Hard Rock Hotel and L.A. saw me commandeering a taxi to take me to the nearest branch of In-n-Out burger. But it was Chicago that really won my heart. Everything about it transfixed me, from the elevated trains running above the streets, rattling over my head when I went out for breakfast each morning, to the gigantic skyscrapers that scrape the landscape and make you feel like you’re walking through the pages of a Marvel comic. While I didn’t get to experience the place fully during my four day stay there, I did manage to shove some excellent meals down my ever hungry maw. These mostly came in the form of sandwiches. For if there is one thing I learned about Chicago during my time there, it’s that it is land of the exemplary sandwich.

Italian Beef sandwich at Max's Chicago

Italian Beef sandwich at Max’s Chicago

A perfect example was this bad boy, an Italian Beef from the rather nondescript looking Max’s Chicago. While the decor left a bit to be desired, the food didn’t. A giant sub roll was stuffed full of thin, slightly fatty slices of beef, giardiniera – a mixture of pickled carrots, cauliflower and courgette and served ‘wet’, meaning that a thin beef gravy was spooned over the roll before it was served. All of those delicious meaty, briny  juices soaked into the sub roll, suffusing it with flavour as well as making it perilously difficult to eat in a ladylike manner. I have no idea if this is a particularly good example of the species; I just know that on a cold Sunday afternoon where I was tired, hungry and terrified of skidding on the huge piles of snow littering the pavements, it hit the spot.

Special mention should also go to Ada’s Famous Deli on Wabash, a small Jewish deli I frequently lunched at during my stay. Go for their giant Reuben sandwiches (a $12.00 lunchtime treat that could easily feed two people, but which I decided to eat by myself because I am a giant glutton) and stay for their amazing dill pickles, which are as thick as a baby’s arm. The limp beef rolls I buy from the sandwich shop next to my office will never look the same again.

Garrett's Chicago Mix popcorn

Garrett’s Chicago Mix popcorn

And then there were the snacks. Numerous people told me that I couldn’t visit Chicago without trying a bag of Garrett’s ‘Chicago Mix’ – a mixture of caramel and cheese flavoured popcorn that sounds utterly disgusting, but tastes amazing. Made fresh in front of you, it’s the perfect conglomeration of salt and sweet – crisp, tangy and oddly addictive. Its neon orange dust also stains everything it lands on, which, in my case, was hotel pillows and duvet covers. I found myself eating gigantic handfuls of the stuff at 5am on a Monday morning, plagued by jetlag, watching awful news reports on CBS (“Are council employees watching Hula-Hooping strippers on YOUR tax dollars?”) I’m not entirely sure that it’s the kind of serving suggestion that the makers would suggest themselves, but it certainly gave me comfort when I needed it.

The Scotch Egg at The Gage

The Scotch Egg at The Gage

Honorable mention should also go to The Gage, an ‘upmarket tavern’ I visited on my last night in the city. I ate their restaurant week menu and, while certain elements of it disappointed, (such as a soup which tasted like a cup-a-soup with an egg plunked in it) I was pleasantly surprised by their meaty, punchy – if slightly overcooked – Scotch Egg, adored their amazing bread and butter and was utterly wowed by a White Chocolate Sponge. I’m not a white chocolate fan, but this cake was infused with a warm, spicy cardamom syrup that will haunt my dreams.

Sadly, work constraints meant that I didn’t get to see as much of Chicago as I would have liked to. Oh, I had well laid out plans of where I’d go and what I’d see, but by the time I’d finished work each day, I had just enough energy to consume a few cocktails and an easily accessible meal before passing out in my hotel bed in front of the TV. As I have discovered, the problem with work trips is that you actually have to work. However, I’m already planning my next trip back so I can explore more of this amazing city. Oh yes, and get my hands on more of that popcorn.

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Baked Aubergine Ziti

I am always happy when I find an aubergine in my fortnightly veg box. I love this fat purple hand grenade of a fruit and its versatility – it seems to go with every type of cuisine imaginable.  Whereas I usually bung it in a curry, or braise it with some tofu, this time I wanted to do something a bit different. The (frankly awful) weather we’re experiencing at the moment makes me want to wrap myself up in a blanket of carbs and cheese, so I decided to turn to that most homely of comfort foods – the humble pasta bake.

Strictly speaking, this isn’t a pasta bake. It’s a ziti, an American/Italian mashup which is a bit like a lasagne but made with short pasta. But, the way I see it, a pasta bake by any other name is still a pasta bake – even if people get a bit snotty when those two words are thrown around. Best of all, it’s the perfect thing to make if you’re cooking for a crowd. The most ‘cooking’ you have to do is creating a decent tomato sauce and browning some aubergine slices. Then you just layer the lot together, smother it in some mozzarella and ricotta cheese and throw it in the oven for 25 minutes.  If you’re not particularly keen on huge chunks of aubergine, you could just chop it into cubes and add those to the tomato sauce. Or, if you’re feeling really dirty, you could coat them in panko breadcrumbs and fry them first to add a nice bit of crunch (thinking back, I kind of wish I’d done this now myself).

This is easy, delicious food, and just the thing to keep the Summertime blues at bay. Add a simple green salad, some good crusty bread and a glass of wine, and you have the perfect weeknight dinner.

BAKED AUBERGINE ZITI (Serves Three)

You will need:

For the tomato sauce

  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 3 leaves of basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp of white sugar
  • 200g penne pasta
  • 1 medium aubergine
  • 150g mozzarella
  • 150g ricotta
  • Salt and Pepper to season

Make It:

  1. First, fry your garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil until it begins to soften. Add the tinned tomatoes and tomato purée and cook for five minutes until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the oregano, rosemary, basil, chilli flakes and white sugar and simmer while you are cooking your pasta.
  2. Boil your penne until it becomes al dente. Drain, and toss in a tablespoon of olive oil to prevent it sticking.
  3. Cut your aubergine into thick rounds (they should be roughly the same width as a 2p coin). Sauté in some olive oil until they are just beginning to turn brown.
  4. Mix the penne with the tomato sauce and layer at the bottom of a large casserole dish. Add the ricotta, then the sliced aubergines and top with torn mozarella. Season well, and bake at 200 degrees C/Gas Mark 5 for around 20-25 minutes.
  5. Once the baked ziti has cooked, leave to cool for around five minutes. Serve with a green salad and fresh crusty bread.
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Momofuku Milk Bar’s Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow Cookies

Ah the joy of Bank Holidays. There’s something unequivocally British about them; with their awful weather, terrible TV and pathetic excuses for public transport. In true ‘English-person-with-their-head-in-the-sand’ style, Mr. Cay and I had planned to go to Southport for a day trip on Monday. My only prior experience of Southport has been an ill-advised family trip to a Pontins Holiday camp there when I was seven. I got into a fight with a bloke dressed as a giant crocodile and my brother got very bad stomach flu. To be honest, it was a miserable experience for everyone involved. But, I was prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt this time, mainly because I’d been led to believe that it was a place which served up excellent donuts and fish & chips, and also because it was only a 30 minute train journey from our house. Then the trains decided to go kaput. I’m not good with rail replacement services at the best of times, but especially not when I could be at home drinking wine and watching Dexter.

When life hands you a cancelled adventure, the only right and proper course of action is to make cookies. I’d been meaning to make Christina Tosi’s (of Momofuku Milk Bar fame) Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow cookies for a while, but had never gotten the chance. Despite my ridiculous girl-crush on her (hey, we bakers-called-Christina have to stick together) it seemed like a lot of faffing for a plateful of biscuits; all that cornflake-crunching, butter-creaming and dough resting, and going to the shops to buy skimmed milk powder. But with a spare day on my hands, and some serious book-writing-displacement-activity to indulge in, it seemed churlish not to at least give them a try.


And man, I’m glad I did. These cookies may just be the best cookies I’ve ever tasted in my life – a riot of tastes and textures. First, there’s the wonderful toffee notes of the (seriously addictive) cornflake crunch, followed by a hit of chocolate and wonderfully gooey melted marshmallows. Yes, it’s a sugar bomb, but it’s a sugar bomb which packs one hell of a punch. I took a batch of these into my office yesterday and couldn’t help feeling a note of pride when they were devoured in record time.

There are a few things to consider when you’re baking these though. First, mixing and resting the dough is vital. My trusty hand mixer actually conked out on me halfway through making these, causing me to curse £6 ASDA home baking equipment and pray for God to deliver me a KitchenAid for a wedding present. Secondly, don’t skimp on the dough when you’re portioning these out for baking. They spread out quite a bit when they’re baking, so if the balls of cookie dough aren’t large enough, they’ll be too thin and burn before you know it.

Other than that, I can’t think of a better way to waste an afternoon in a kitchen. Sorry Southport, nothing personal. But I think that this time, I got the better end of the deal.

CORNFLAKE CRUNCH

You will need:

  • 120g cornflakes (I used Crunchy Nut cornflakes)
  • 40g skimmed milk powder
  • 40g white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 130g unsalted butter, melted


Make It!

  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees C/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Pour the cornflakes in a medium bowl and crush them with your hands to 1/4 of their original size. Add the milk powder, sguar, and salt and toss to mix. Add the butter and toss to coat. As you toss, the butter will act like a glue, binding the dry ingredients to the cereal and creating small clusters.
  3.  Spread the clusters onto a baking parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes, at which point they should look toasted, smell buttery and crunch gently when cooled slightly and chewed.
  4. Cool the cornflake crunch completely before storing or using in a recipe. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the crunch will keep fresh for 1 week; in the fridge or freezer, it will keep for one month.

CORNFLAKE-CHOCOLATE CHIP-MARSHMALLOW COOKIES (Makes 15-20 cookies)

Adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook

You will need:

  • 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 1 medium sized egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 270g Cornflake crunch
  • 125g chocolate chips
  • 65g mini marshmallows

Make It:

  1. Combine the butter and sugars in a bowl. Cream the two together with a hand mixer for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla and beat again for 7-8 minutes. Do not skip this part. This is a very important step to achieving the right consistency for Milkbar Cookies (If you’re lucky enough to own a KitchenAid, this is where it will come in handy. If you don’t, be prepared to develop some serious upper-arm muscles).
  2. Turn your hand mixer/stand mixer to low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute (Don’t do it for any longer, or you  risk overmixing the dough). Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
    Add the cornflake crunch and mini chocolate chips to the dough and mix for 30-45 seconds, until they are just incorporated. Add the mini marshmallows, and mix for another 30 seconds.
  3. Portion out your dough into balls which are (roughly) the size of your fist onto a parchment lined sheet pan.  Don’t make them any smaller than this – if you do, they’ll be too thin, and won’t obtain that lovely chewy effect. Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat, wrap the sheet tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature- they will not hold their shape.
  4. Heat your oven to 2oo degrees C/Gas Mark 4. Arrange the chlled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on a parchment-lined sheet pans. Bake for 12 minutes. The cookies will puff, crackle and spread. At the 12 minute mark, the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown toward the center. Leave them in the oven for an additional minute or so if they aren’t and they still seem pale and doughy on the surface.
  5. Cool the cookies completely before transferring to a plate or an airtight container for storage. At room temperature the cookies will keep fresh for 5 days; in the freezer, they will keep for 1 month.
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Pulled Pork Sandwich with Homemade Sandwich Buns

You’re probably looking at the above image wondering why I have posted a picture of a relatively normal sandwich whose only distinguishing feature is that it resembles a meat-filled PacMan. But looks can be deceptive. And whilst this may not look like much to the naked eye, it is, in fact, possibly the best sandwich I’ve eaten all year. A sandwich so good, that – if I was one of those God fearing types – I’d be offering up a prayer to him thanking him for inventing tasty tasty pigs. For this vision, dear readers, is slow cooked pulled pork piled onto a home made bun. And bugger me, it is pretty bloody amazing.

Read any (good) food blog from the USA, and they will tend to rhapsodise about the beauty of a delicious pile of pulled pork. Juicy, tender and piquant with a baste of vinegar, tomato sauce and brown sugar, it is a taste of the South wrapped up in one delicious messy bite. Most of the time, the pork is barbecued slowly over a smoker, but seeing as it is November, and not exactly barbecue weather here in Bootle, I decided to improvise and give my slow cooker a bit of an airing.

First, I smothered my pork joint in a dry rub and left it overnight. Then, the next morning, I dunked it in a pot and allowed it to stew in its own juices for a few hours. The end result was divine – a nice hunk of pig, braised to breaking point, rich with delicious unctuous fat which was slightly crispy from being sizzled against the hot crock pot.

I would have happily eaten this delicious meat spaghetti on its own, but then I decided that that might be unseemly. Also, apparently it’s not ladylike to eat a big plate of red meat whilst shouting at the TV. So, I threw together some easy home made sandwich buns to accompany my bounty. Warm, squidgey and nicely sweet, these were devoured with almost as much relish as the pork.

This is big, messy, thoroughly filthy food. So leave your manners at the door, don’t be ashamed to lick your fingers clean, and let that juice run down your chin with pride. November’s here. It’s time for some serious soul food.

SLOW COOKED PULLED PORK (Serves four)

You will need:

  • 1 kg pork shoulder joint (preferably bone-in – I got mine from Abel and Cole)
  • 1-2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons muscavado sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 150ml barbecue sauce (I was lazy and used some stuff out of a bottle that I bought from Florida, but it’s super easy to make your own)
Make It!
  1. To make the spice rub: combine all of the spices and the garlic paste in a bowl. Massage the spice rub into the pork, ensuring that you coat each side of the joint thoroughly. Place in a cool place and leave to marinade for at least five hours (I left mine overnight).
  2. When you’re ready to cook your joint, place it in your slow cooker with 150ml of water. Cook on the ‘low’ setting for six – seven hours, or until the meat flakes into shreds when you pull it apart with the prongs of a fork.
  3. Once the pork is done, transfer it to a chopping board and discard the leftover liquid in the slow cooker and the bone.  Shred the meat finely with a fork,  place it back in the slow cooker and coat it with the barbecue sauce. Heat it on the low setting for ten minutes or so until warm. Pile on top of home made sandwich buns with the toppings of your choice (e.g. a nice slaw).
HOMEMADE SANDWICH BUNS (Makes 8 buns)
Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon fast action yeast
  • 125ml tepid water
  • 125ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 360g bread flour (I used wholemeal as it was the only thing I had in my cupboards)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
Make It!
  1. Activate the yeast by stirring it into the tepid water and let it sit until it’s dissolved and has become frothy (it should have a good head on it).
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, oil, sugar, and salt. Add this to the yeast mixture and stir until combined. Add all the flour and stir until it forms a shaggy dough. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough feels smooth, slightly sticky, and springs back when poked.
  3. Return the dough to the mixing bowl and cover. Let the dough rise in a warm spot  for around an hour until it has doubled in size.
  4. Dust your work surface with a little flour and turn out the risen dough on top. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape each into a ball which is roughly the size of your fist. Transfer the balls to an oiled baking sheet and let rise for around 30-40 minutes until they look puffy and hamburger-sized.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200 degrees C. Melt the butter and brush it over the risen buns. This helps them to brown and keeps the crust soft. Bake the rolls for around 15-18 minutes until they have turned puffy and golden.
  6. Let the buns cool to room temperature before slicing and using.
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Chai Snickerdoodles

Weekends are for cooking. At least they are in my house anyway. As soon as Friday rolls around, I inwardly start planning what I intend to create in my kitchen inbetween hardcore bouts of sitting on my arse, reading blogs, drinking wine and watching crap TV. In my opinion, if Mr. Cay hasn’t shouted at me at least once because he’s found some cake batter stuck to a wall, then it isn’t a proper weekend.

The past two days have been no exception. Yesterday I made Felicity Cloake’s epic bolognese sauce, which led to me cycling to every butchers shop in the L20 area looking for chicken livers. This morning I made a batch of brown bread that Mr. Warbuton would have been proud of. And this afternoon – looking for something sweet to snack on whilst I cracked on with reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods in the bath – I decided to whip up a batch of these Chai Snickerdoodles.

Snickerdoodle. It is, when you think about it, rather a silly name for a simple sugar cookie. It sounds more like the type of treat that would be served up in an Enid Blyton story, eaten off tiny golden plates by fairy folk. As it is, these are one of the great standards of American baking – a crunchy yet soft biscuit, punchy with cinnamon.They are the kind of things that you can easily inhale ten of in one sitting, as I have found out to my cost on many an occasion.

Here, these seemingly simple cookies have been jazzed up a bit with chai spices – ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and a few cloves for good measure. They may not look like anything special when they come out of the oven, but as with so many things in life, looks can be deceptive. The end product is warm, sweet and spicy, just the thing to munch after you’ve braved the late September chill.

Chai Snickerdoodles are easy to make, and even easier to eat. They’re perfect for teatime, coffee time, or just anytime you feel like eating something coated in sugar. Which, come to think of it it, in my house, is most of the time.

CHAI SNICKERDOODLES (Makes around 20 snickerdoodles)

Recipe adapted from The Novice Chef

You will need:

For the Snickerdoodles

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar (I didn’t have any cream of tartar, so replaced this with 1 teaspoon lemon juice & 1 teaspoon vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 230g unsalted butter
  • 300g white sugar
  • 2 medium eggs

For the Chai Sugar

  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • The seeds from 3 cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Make It!

  1. First, make the chai sugar mix. Start by putting the seeds from the cardamom pods and the cloves in a pestle and mortar, and grinding them into a powder. Then add the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg & sugar, and combine well.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar (or lemon juice & vinegar if you don’t have any cream of tartar in your cupboards), and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl until it turns pale and fluffy. (I used my trusty hand mixer to do this, but if you’re lucky enough to own a stand mixer, pop it in there). Now, add your eggs – one at a time.
  4. Combine the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients into one big bowl. Once you’ve done this, it’s time to roll out some snickerdoodles. Take tablespoons of the mix, and roll them into balls with your hands, then dunk them thoroughly into the sugar. Don’t worry if the batter seems a bit sloppy and goes everywhere, it’s supposed to be like that and the sugar will firm them up a bit. Place the balls of dough onto a well greased baking sheet until the mix is all used up.
  5. Bake the snickerdoodles on Gas Mark 4/200 degrees centigrade for around 15 minutes, or until they turn brown and crackly on top. Once done, take them out of the oven and leave them to rest until cooled.  If you try to eat them when they’re warm, they’ll be too soft and cakey.
  6. Serve with coffee and a good book. Or, alternatively, you can just inhale them in your pants whilst watching Match for the Day. Whatever’s good for you.  Apparently these keep for around five days, but I defy anyone not to eat an entire batch of these in the space of 24 hours.
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Scallops and Grits

OK, so I know what you’re thinking. Jesus CHRIST McDermott, what in the hell is that bowl of crap? And why are you incapable of taking a good picture of a bowl of food? Well, these are both good questions. And the answer simply lies in the fact that I had a bit of a stroke of genius in the kitchen this evening and – before I lost this rare and wonderful spark of culinary creativity by passing out on my laptop during Newsnight – decided to take a photograph of my dinner before I ate it. As you do. And WHOOO BOY was it good. I mean really good. In a stick-to-your-ribs-feels-like-a-big-comforting-hug-at-the-end-of-an-incredibly-long-day good. As in I might very well have the seconds of this for breakfast tomorrow good. You get the picture.

The catalyst for this little bowl of glory came (as it so often does) via one of my favourite food blogs, The Kitchn. I came home after a long day slaving away at the coal face of my chosen profession and their recipe for Shrimp and Grits was the first thing which appeared in my RSS feed. But, alas, whilst I had the grits, I lacked a key ingredient you need to make Shrimp and Grits. Namely, shrimp (aka prawns if you’re one of those British types).

However, I still had a job lot of Isle of Man Queenie Scallops which needed to be used up, so, I decided to improvise, hoping that their light fresh taste could stand up to some good old fashioned Southern style cooking. I fried up some bacon, I caramelised some onions, I basted some scallops in butter, lemon juice and tabasco. And then I cooked myself up a portion of grits.

Grits are the kind of ingredient which baffles people when you first tell them about it. Grits? As in gravel? Are you a goose? Are you now scoffing ballast so you can keep yourself grounded like a ship? Well, no. Grits are actually ground cornmeal, much like polenta. If you ever go to the South of the USA, you’ll usually find them in any good diner cooked up with lots of cheese and cream and smothered in collard greens. Whilst this recipe doesn’t contain any greens, I do recommend that you add cheese to your ‘grits’. LOTS of cheese. Otherwise, they’ll just end up bland and tasteless and you’ll have wasted a lot of time and energy on creating a pot of bright yellow wallpaper paste.

The finished product was amazing – rich, warming, and packed full of flavour without being overwhelming. As quick Monday night suppers go, you could do a lot worse. Just don’t make this recipe with actual grit. OK?

SCALLOPS WITH GRITS

You will need (all measurements are approximate):

For the grits
150 g polenta meal (don’t get the ready cooked stuff which comes in a brick – it won’t work here)
200 ml boiling water (you want enough to cover the polenta)
1 tablespoon butter
A healthy grating of strong cheddar cheese (use as much as you’d like – they should have a nice cheesy flavour to them)
Salt and Pepper (to taste)

For the scallops
2 large handfuls of scallops
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
A large slug of tabasco
1 lemon, cut in half

For the gravy
2 thick slices of bacon, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
A large glug of white wine
150ml chicken stock, preferably homemade
Salt, to taste
Thinly sliced spring onions, for garnish (optional)

Make It!

  1. For the grits, bring the water to a gentle boil in a heavy sauce pan. Add the polenta meal and reduce the heat to medium low. Whisk occasionally at first, then whisk more frequently as the grits begin to thicken, watching carefully to make sure the bottom of the pot does not scald. Cook until the grits are thick and creamy, about 45 minutes to an hour. Add salt, butter and grated cheddar, adjusting to personal taste. Meanwhile, prepare the scallops and gravy.
  2. For the scallops, sprinkle them with the smoked paprika, tabasco sauce and the juice of one half a lemon. Set aside.
  3. For the gravy, heat a large fry pan over a medium-high heat. Cook until bacon is brown and almost crispy (but not quite). Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Drain all of the bacon grease except for 2 tablespoons, and add a tablespoon of butter to the pan. Lower the heat to medium, add the scallops  (in batches if necessary) and baste with melted butter, flipping once, until they begin to turn brown and caramelise slightly at the edges. Remove the scallops with their cooking liquids. Squeeze with the juice of the remaining lemon half and set aside.
  4. Heat another tablespoon of  butter in the same pan over medium to medium-high until melted. Add onions and saute for five minutes until they turn brown and tender. Throw in garlic and cook for another minute. Sprinkle flour over the onions and cook until it is absorbed, for around one more minute. Deglaze the pan with a good slug of white wine and reduce until the mixture is thickened. Add chicken stock and continue cooking for around five minutes or so  until the gravy reaches your desired consistency. Season with r salt, to taste. Return the bacon and scallops with their juices to the pan and reheat scallops. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  5. To serve, spoon the grits into bowls. Pour scallops and gravy on top and garnish with sliced spring onions.
  6. To reheat, add a little chicken stock to the grits and/or gravy and warm over medium-low heat.


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